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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fumbles Still Haunt Samuel

Once the initial excitement died down after Richard Samuel's big day in Georgia's first scrimmage of the fall, it wasn't his 178 yards or his three touchdowns that stood out in the minds of many fans. It was his fumble -- a lone turnover following a long run on a third-down play.

Fans had seen too much of it from Samuel in his rookie season last year, starting with the first carry of his career against Georgia Southern and continuing even into his special teams work as Georgia's primary kick returner.

On one hand, Samuel's breakout scrimmage moved him to the top of the depth chart at tailback.

On the other hand, it meant Georgia's top-performing tailback had a pretty nasty case of fumble-itus.

"That's probably the only thing that will keep him from getting a substantial amount of playing time is just being a guy who fumbles," head coach Mark Richt said after the scrimmage.

Running backs coach Bryan McClendon said he has worked closely with Samuel on avoiding fumbles this fall, but it's a message he said he preaches to all of his tailbacks.

During drills, there's never a point in which the running back can be loose with the football, McClendon said, even if they're simply tossing the ball back to the quarterback after a play.

“That’s a main point of emphasis that we have," McClendon said. "You have to focus a lot on it. A lot of what we do, even in all the drills, we focus on ball security, how we’re holding the ball. They have to maintain good ball security whenever they have the ball in their hands.”

And that's the key, Samuel said. There's no physical reason he should lose the football so often, but he understands he needs to get mentally stronger to overcome the problem.

“I feel like if I’m mentally prepared, I’ll be able to protect the ball," Samuel said. "Fumbling is just a mental thing. You have to keep the ball tucked and know that it’s tight and be prepared for contact.”

So far, it looks like the preparation is working.

The fumble in Georgia's first scrimmage was the first of the fall for Samuel, Richt said, and he hasn't let go of another one since.

The opportunity for playing time may have been the best motivator, but Richt said Samuel never doubted the importance of changing his stripes when it comes to keeping a firm grip on the ball.

In the end, he spent his big day worrying about the same thing most of the fans did.

"He took it to heart, which he should," Richt said. "As good as he played that day, really all he could think about was that he fumbled the ball. I was really praising him for the job he did, and he was like, ‘Yeah, but I fumbled the ball, and I can’t do that.’ And he’s right. He can’t. One fumble can cost a game, and one game could cost you a chance at a championship. So every bit of ball security is very important.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really like Samuel's attitude. It seems like he has a really good head on his shoulders. Maybe moreso than some of the other RBs.